World leaders depart Paris, leaving negotiators to hash out climate accord

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    World leaders left Paris today, and negotiators got down to the hard work of finishing a landmark climate change accord.

    President Obama was among those departing after a final call to action.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I am convinced that we are going to get big things done here.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    At an afternoon news conference, the president sounded optimistic about the summit's chances.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    If you had said to people as recently as two years ago that we'd have 180 countries showing up in Paris with pretty ambitious targets for carbon reduction, most people would have said, you're crazy, that's a pipe dream. And yet here we are. That's already happened.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Even so, climate scientists warn it will take much larger reductions to stop the Earth's warming trend. Another sticking point is finding the money to help poor nations adapt.

    Today, Mr. Obama, a native of Hawaii who lived for a time in Indonesia, met with leaders of Pacific island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    As weather patterns change, we might deal with tens of millions of climate refugees from the Asian Pacific region, and as I mentioned to my friends around the table, I am an island boy. I grew up on an island, and understand both the beauty, but also the fragility of island ecosystems.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Meanwhile, African leaders talked to French President Francois Hollande about threats their countries face, ranging from the spreading Sahara Desert to dwindling water supplies.

  • AKINWUMI ADESINA, President, African Development Bank:

    Africa, the least emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, now suffers the most from climate change. Others pollute. Africa pays, and pays dearly. Lake Chad is almost gone, and the sand dunes are encroaching the Sahel.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Hollande announced today that France will send more than $8 billion to Africa for development of renewable energy and electrical access. But the Paris meeting's success will ultimately be judged by how far a final deal goes and how effective it can be without mandatory enforcement.

    President Obama acknowledged as much at his news conference.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    What we seek is an agreement where progress paves the way for countries to update their emissions targets on a regular basis and each nation has the confidence that other nations are meeting their commitments.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Still, as the president flew back to Washington, House Republicans called for action to reject his Clean Power Plan.

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan:

    REP. PAUL RYAN, Speaker of the House: I don't think we're out of step with public opinion wanting jobs, wanting economic growth, weighing the costs and the benefits. And I think when you weigh the cost and the benefits against these so-called legally binding obligations, they don't add up.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The House votes on a Republican energy bill later this week. The White House has already threatened a veto.

    And this evening, House Republicans did push through resolutions opposing EPA limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

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